Exploring Return Migration Infrastructures in the Philippines

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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Dubbed as the bagong bayani or new heroes, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) significantly contribute to the economic growth of the Philippines but are often subjected to various abuses and vulnerabilities. It is always relevant to examine and re-examine various mechanisms that both supports and excludes migrant workers across the premigration, migration, and return phases. The country has already in place a structured and well-organized migration infrastructure. Albeit a fast-growing interest in academe globally, the visibility of returning OFWs sadly remains underdiscussed and undervalued which cascades to a lack of effective return and reintegration. This working paper aims to explore and understand return migration in the Philippines by analyzing the existing academic landscape reinforced by global reports, grey literature, data derived from Philippines agencies and offices, and an online questionnaire of OFWs. Thus, five key messages were crafted. First, information on return and reintegration should go beyond the numbers. Secondly, expanding definitions and revisiting framings may contribute to streamlined classifications or typologies of OFWs that includes the ignored and the unlabeled. Thirdly, amplifying support structures that considers the long-term development of permanent or temporary returnees can improve their quality of life. Fourthly, a more responsive reintegration program must go beyond economic aspects but should also consider the political, social, psycho-social/mental, and cultural aspects. Finally, the country must boost its domestic economy and minimize reliance on the global labour market. Providing strong return and reintegration of OFWs means the government can effectively utilize their skills and expertise in improving the quality of life in the country. Ultimately, a good quality of life in the Philippines can encourage OFWs to return and stay.

return migration, Philippines, returnees, reintegration, migration governance